British actor Andrew Lincoln was once only known to American audiences as that sensitive guy in “Love Actually” who made women everywhere teary-eyed when he told Keira Knightley he loved her — using flash cards. No longer. Lincoln’s ignited his career as Sheriff Rick Grimes in the huge AMC hit, “The Walking Dead.” All it took was trading in sweet love notes for some choice zombie-slaying weapons.
“The Walking Dead” is a horror show — but also a psychological drama showing how people deal with danger.
It’s not just a show about monsters. All of the horror movies I love, such as “The Shining,” have some sort of moral. The characters never cease evolving, and that’s what makes the show so strong. The psychological impact of the decisions my character needs to take is the most interesting part.
Have you ever been scared on the set?
No. But you know, zombies are pretty cool people. There is this one scene when I come back to the farm followed by a horde of zombies in the middle of the night. That was scary. Other than that, no. I am a zombie killer after all.
Rick Grimes is very different from Mark, your character in “Love Actually.” Do you have a favorite?
It’s hard for me to choose between two people who are both so far removed from my personality. “Love Actually” is a beautiful film. But I like the fact that with Rick Grimes you never know what to expect.
How would you describe him?
I wouldn’t be able to. One of the most remarkable things about him is his changeability. If he’s still alive, it’s because he sticks by all of his decisions and these become increasingly difficult and morally ambiguous. But at no point do we lose touch with who he really is.
The third season of “The Walking Dead” just started. Can you give us some spoilers?
One of the show’s biggest strengths is how main characters come and go to be replaced by new ones. This formula has helped us add a new dimension and is what enables the show to reinvent itself every season. I wouldn’t be able to tell you what a classic episode of “TWD” is like because I’ve never done one. I’m just happy Rick has survived all these episodes.
Did you ever think the show would be so successful when you first signed on ?
You can’t predict this sort of thing. All I can say is that on paper, a TV show about zombies shouldn’t have made such an impact on my career.
It influenced your career?
Definitely. I never thought I’d ever get to play such an emblematic American character. It’s a great privilege.
How would you react to a real-life zombie invasion?
I would be the first one to run away.